Dear Thelma: Wedding planning is causing havoc between us

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Dear Thelma,

First of all, thank you for being a listening ear for so many people.

I’ve been in a relationship with my boyfriend for five years now. He is the perfect boyfriend. He treats me right, and we are in a lovely relationship. All my friends and even my family members have told me I am very lucky to have a man like him.

He has proposed to me, and we are officially engaged. We have our problems like other normal couples. But the real problem started when both our families started discussing our wedding.

Getting married to the love of my life is a dream but he seems to be regretting the decision to get married in the first place.

A bit about my fiance: He is caring and loving. What I like about him is he really cares for me. Every time I have a problem, he offers me a solution.

But he is too attached to his family. He has a lot of relatives – they are a very big and closely knit family.

As for me, I am only close to my mum. I have relatives but we are not so close and only meet occasionally.

As I was saying, the problem started when his family started discussing our wedding. Their family members were prioritising their convenience, such as the marriage date, venue, etc, whereas I was solely concerned about the wedding expenses.

The bride and groom are sharing the cost equally.

His family wants to have a big ceremony, which will bust my budget.

So every time we talk about the wedding, it ends in an argument. I think he prioritises his family over me which is not wrong but, as his soon-to-be wife, I want him to back me up and be there for me no matter what.

My fiance and I have had many arguments in the course of planning for our wedding, and those arguments were never settled properly.

I have noticed a pattern in these arguments: We argue about one problem, things get heated up and he would say he can’t talk anymore, and takes a one- or two-hour break and after that, talks to me like there is no problem.

Every time I start talking about the problem, he would say, “Let’s just forget it and move on in order for us to be happy.” Most of the time I will forget it and move on without a solution. I assume that he was not being vulnerable around me.

My problems that were unanswered by him:

Why can’t he prioritise my needs?

Why can’t he be open with me?

Why can’t he put me first like I am putting him first?

Why does he think that listening to me will project him as a “wife listener” in front of his family?

Why does he care more about what people will think of me rather than hurting my feelings?

And more…

I am just speechless. We’ve just had an argument and he said he is not ready for any of these questions and told me to call off the wedding as it’s causing so many problems between him and me.

I really need a solution for this.

Wedding jitters

Thanks for writing in, and for putting the facts so clearly. I’m perplexed because I don’t see why this is a good relationship.

I think you’ve examined the issue in detail and you ask excellent questions.

His family wants you to go into debt so that they can have a party. Your fiance is perfectly OK with this, and his solution is for you to knuckle down or to break it off.

This is not loving or caring. There are other red flags too.

That expression, “Let’s just forget it and move on in order for us to be happy.” translates to “I’m not interested in your thoughts or feelings, so shut up and do what I want.”

Furthermore, he believes that a man who pays attention to his partner’s feeling makes him a “wife listener” and that this is a bad thing. That’s misogynistic.

My view is that he isn’t interested in your feelings. If you stick with him, you’ll spend the rest of your life doing exactly what he and his family want, whether it bankrupts you, makes you ill or causes you unending problems.

I say, run! Leave now and don’t look back.

However, basing a life decision on a letter isn’t a great idea. You need more input. I strongly suggest you avoid couple’s therapy for now. If he’s a bad egg, he’ll just hijack the sessions. Go for individual therapy instead.

Pick a therapist who focuses on your happiness, not someone invested in promoting marriage. Book two or three sessions for yourself and talk it through properly.

Don’t rush. Only decide when you’re certain you’ll be happy for 50 years.

If you decide to stay, talk through all of your listed questions. And make sure there is effective change. The end result should be a partnership that makes you both happy.

If you decide to end it, then I have some thoughts on the next step. When you date again, pick a person who understands that marriage is a partnership. Also, you must be happy quarrelling together.

This may sound weird, but every couple has disagreements. What matters is how you navigate these.

For some couples, it involves a bit of heated yelling and, for others, it’s a cooling down period followed by calm discussion.

Either is good! As long as you both stick to ethical fighting, meaning speaking with respect, acknowledging feelings, and figuring out solutions that you can both live with, you’ll be fine.

With complex issues, you may need to sit down and talk things through over several occasions. You may also need to try different approaches before you find something that works.

Life is rarely simple. But as long as both partners are kind, honest, and caring towards each other, you can work through most things.

The two approaches that won’t work are avoidance and dismissal. Not addressing or caring about a partner’s happiness are relationship killers because these attitudes signal deep disrespect.

And in case this wedding day issue comes up again, please know that negotiating wedding day logistics is part of the marriage.

It’s just one day of your life, so put a figure on it and don’t budge from it. Only do what you’re happy to do.

If you have separate finances and an uneven guest list, a standard approach is to share the ceremony costs (venue, paperwork, etc) equally, but each pay for your own guests. So you pay for lunch or dinner for your dozen guests and he pays for his 200 relatives.

I hope this helps. Please know I’m thinking of you. Remember, you deserve to be happy. Good luck!